Thank you all so much for reading “Grim Tide”! This is the third chapter (you can read Chapter One and Chapter Two on this blog). Unfortunately, this is the last chapter I can post here, without violating Vella’s terms of service. I will be posting a blog next week to explain my plans for this story! I hope you’re enjoying the story thus far!
They arrived a short while later at a two-story home. It was more windows than walls, as was expected of homes built in the seventies. From what she could tell, Avery had done his best to modernize it. Dark siding and manufactured stone created the perfect palette. There were many raised garden beds, all of which seemed to be overrun with fresh fruits and vegetables.
It was sizable. The sort of house she could easily imagine costing somewhere around half a million in Miami. Even for the area, whose cost of living was substantially less, this place was likely up there in value. Especially given all the work he had put in.
“Home sweet home,” he crooned as he pulled into the driveway.
Karina was entirely too aware of the stink of the plane still on her. She would have moved Heaven and Hell itself if it meant she would get a hot shower.
A cursory look at the front picture window revealed that would likely not be the case. A petite woman stood at its center with a boy, barely above the age of ten, waving frantically at the approaching car. The smile he wore was obvious, even from the car.
“Natalie and Jason?”
“The one and only,” he beamed. Then, with a groan, he pried himself out of the driver’s seat.
The front door opened, and the two seemed to materialize in front of the car. Jason moved to his grandfather, colliding heavily with the man’s solid midsection. Avery let out a surprised groan and a deep, rumbling chuckle. “You gotta warn me if you’re going to tackle me, sport!”
Karina found herself smiling, matching the too-wide-for-her-face grin that Natalie had been wearing. But now, it was directed at her. An almost impossibly small hand was offered, her slender fingers adorned with many rings. “Hi,” she greeted, her voice a sultry, smokey alto. “It’s nice to meet you, Karina.”
“It’s nice to meet you, too, Natalie,” she said, giving her hand a shake.
Despite standing several inches shorter than her, she had the disposition of someone eight feet tall. Her hair was not fairing well in this humidity, making those tight, bleached ringlets frizz. She had a similar face to her father – hers rounder, her nose slimmer, more pointed. Their brows were the same – arched, dark, housing thick-lashed eyes. But, unlike her father, her eyes were a beautiful brown. And quite unlike her father, she was small. A trait she inherited from her mother, no doubt.
“How was the flight in?” Natalie pressed.
“It was good!”
“I bet you’re looking forward to a shower, huh?”
She looked down at herself, suddenly quite worried that her stench was noticeable. Avery’s daughter chuckled, her head shaking from side to side as she waved her toward the house. “I’ve been on many planes in my day. You cannot come away from being packed in sardines and feel like you smell any better.”
Her son detangled from Avery saddled now with Karina’s carry-on.
“Oh, thank you,” she said, reaching for the bag.
He looked offended, his brows creeping so high up his forehead, she thought they’d float off his head entirely. “You’re our guest!” He said, his tone betraying his offense. “I want to take your bags, Miss Levy.”
“Ah, well,” she offered the mother a sidelong glance – amusement playing on the corners of her lips. “Thank you very much, Mister….”
“Jason,” he said, setting her bag down to offer his hand. “Welcome to Casa de Locke.”
“Sounds fancy,” Karina said, powerless to stop her smirk.
“It’s a resort,” Natalie smiled. “Come on, I’ll give you the tour.”
She was eager to follow, her attention stolen almost immediately by the mother and child. Avery called out from behind them – something about them not needing to worry about him getting all of the luggage all by himself. Jason — or rather, Mister Jason — reprimanded him for whining and reminded him that he had plenty of help. It would just take a few trips.
The front door opened, leading them into a remarkably well-kept-looking foyer. A staircase immediately in front of them led up to what looked to be a loft-style second floor. To the left was an impressive living space, outfitted with a two-way hearth. To the right was a recessed family room connected to a dining room. She could see peaks of slate gray cabinetry and beautiful marble countertops.
The blonde stopped to inspect her for a long moment, her chin held in her hand. It was difficult to not fluster under her speculative stare. Her head tilted from one side to another as if she was a puppy puzzling over her master’s words.
“Kitchen first,” Natalie said, at long last.
A nervous titter of laughter was all Karina could offer. “What… why?”
“I can chef-dar.”
“What on Earth is that?”
“I can tell if someone likes to cook or not.”
The Werewolf looked down at herself, her hand hovering over her midsection.
“Oh my gosh,” she grumbled. “Karina, if you turned sideways, you’d disappear. It has nothing to do with waistline.”
A flush sprawled across her cheeks. “How can you tell?”
“I have no idea, honestly. Probably because dad loves cooking. So I have a sixth sense.”
“Pffft,” she laughed, waving a hand over her head as if to dispel such a preposterous theory. “It’s take-out and microwavable stuff for me, baby. All-day every day.”
Typically, Karina wasn’t the sort of person to make snap judgments about people. But, it was undeniable that she and Natalie would be fast friends. There was something about her that was comforting. Endearing. Raw. Even her own friends maintained a certain air of mystery around them. As if it physically pained them to imagine letting anyone see them for who they were.
Natalie just seemed real. Unapologetically herself.
It didn’t hurt that her ‘chef-dar’ was utterly correct. They made their way through the family room, the dining room – a gray wooden table with sapphire blue napkins laid out atop white square plates. The kitchen itself was immaculate, sans a few covered dishes. A fruit tray, an assortment of vegetables.
“Dad really likes hosting.”
“I can see that.”
“It’s really because he’s a raging egomaniac who loves when people compliment his cooking.”
“A raging egomaniac?” Karina pressed.
“Incorrigible. A total me-monster. He’ll start to annoy you soon enough.”
“You sound so convincing,” she grinned.
“I’m trying to steal you,” she whispered. “My dad gets all the cool friends. Which is just… so weird. I want cool friends. And you’re age-appropriate. I mean, I love Betty, but last time I took her out to the club, it was a disaster. ‘Why is the music so loud, Natalie? I can’t use my cane in here, Natalie!’”
Karina laughed a bit louder than was likely appropriate. And her companion seemed more than alright with it. In fact, it only seemed to spur her on.
Together, they wandered through the rest of the house. Off the kitchen was a sizable pantry. A utility closet where Avery’s laundry could be found, remarkably, just as tidily kept as the rest of the house. A long, narrow hallway connected the house’s wings together, creating what seemed to be a giant circle around the staircase.
The other side of the house housed a homemade gym, a makeshift, open office for Avery, and a full bath. When they arrived in the living room, the boys were nowhere to be seen. Avery and Jason had already returned to the car for the second round of luggage. As the little man had said before, many trips.
With almost uncanny intuition, Natalie reached for the rolling bag that housed all of her toiletries. “Let’s get your room all situated and get you into the shower.”
“Thank you…” Karina gaped, her mouth opening and closing, wondering if she should point out the boldness of her assumption or its accuracy.
She seemed amused. The sort that cropped up only from knowing something someone else didn’t. “Witch,” she pointed at herself.
Karina stumbled over her words, her brows lifting as she stared at her. “Oh.”
“Am I your first?”
“Y-Yeah,” she laughed. “I’m uhm.” She cleared her throat, realizing that her feet had stopped moving of their own volition, leaving her rooted in place on the stairs. “I’m just now….”
“Yeah, dad told me,” the blonde smiled reassuringly, her hand raking self-consciously through her hair. “It’s alright. It’s kind of a weird thing to adjust to. Learning about one thing doesn’t mean you just expect everything else—”
“To be real,” they said at the same time.
“I think it’s pretty cool, though,” she said, affording the Witch a small smile. “I’m probably going to ask you a lot of dumb questions.”
Natalie laughed, taking the last few steps. “By all means.”
She was shown down a long hallway. She marveled at the architecture, looking at the open floor plan below. So much so, she barely noticed the tour guide’s words. Not until they stopped in their tracks and a bedroom was indicated. “This is my childhood bedroom,” she smiled. “It’s the only room dad completely hasn’t re-done.”
“The sentimental sort?”
“Or the lazy sort,” she smirked. “If you ever want to see what the house looked like – the seventies hell-hole that it was, all you gotta do is crack open this door. I would show you, but I’m pretty sure the dust bunnies have gained sentience and might come to thump you to death.”
Together, they wandered further down the hall. A guest bedroom was indicated. One she could only assume was meant to be her room. It was directly next to Avery’s. It was large, understated. Like the rest of the house, it was quite tidy. Though, it was a great deal more lived in. A flannel was draped over the back of one of the accent chairs. A remote left on the nightstand with a double-walled mug with a teabag still hanging over the lip. A wall of books surprised Karina – she hadn’t realized he was such an avid reader. Or, at the very least, a collector.
“This place is amazing,” she said, powerless to hide the wonder in her voice.
“Dad is really handy,” Natalie nodded her agreement. “You should see what he did with my place. I wanted a revenge body for my ex-wife, but I got a revenge house instead.”
“Some might argue that’s better.”
“Those people are smart.”
They shared a laugh, both quickly leaving Avery’s bedroom behind. It felt a bit strange to linger in his space without him there. Though, she suspected that it would have been even more awkward with him there.
“There’s an attached bath in the guest,” Natalie grumbled something under her breath about how she should have had that bedroom when she was growing up. “I’ll leave you to it.”
They said their temporary farewells as the door closed with a soft click behind her. She wheeled the bag into the room, drinking in the clean, crisp white lines of the bedroom. The bedding was white, accented by deep beige pillows – the end tables were painted black, featuring only the bare bones accouterments. Avery had a good, natural eye, but it was impossible to deny the lack of a woman’s touch in the details.
She stripped slowly, studying every inch of her newfound surroundings. The plush carpet beneath her feet. The paintings hung up on the wall – abstract, with a childishly sprawled name at the bottom right corner.
Her eyes went wide, her smile grew broader. It seemed that the entire family was full of surprises.
The shower was soon turned on, and Karina was slated to experience the benefits of a tankless water heater. She washed the grime of the day off of her. Rivulets of sudsy water carved a path over her frame, and with them, she imagined the hot brush of teeth against her skin.
A jolt of wanting coiled between her thighs. So powerful, she had to brace her hand against the wall. Her cheeks flushed, her breath hitched.
The Beast’s voice erupted from her subconscious.
She did her best to keep the thoughts at bay and keep the want from driving her to her knees. It was too easy to allow her mind to wander. Too easy to imagine the many things that could be done with her room so dangerously close to Avery’s.
Embarrassment took hold of her, though it was not potent enough to quell the ache between her legs. It was almost as if she was entirely out of control.
Desperate, ravenous, her fingers took the place her Beast felt a lover’s should. She bit into her arm to quiet her sounds, her forehead braced against the cold shower tile.
She was left shaking and breathless and satisfied. Best of all, the creature beneath her skin grew quiet.
At long last, she could think clearly.
The remainder of their evening was spent together. As a family. She made sure to thank them both profusely for being so kind as to allow her into their home. Into their lives.
She tried not to think too much about what she did when she was finally alone. Nor about the words the creature murmured to her. Her wants, her hungers. It was a great deal easier to keep them at bay with strangers around.
Natalie dismissed her gratitude, using it as leverage to procure her number. Never before had she made such a fast friend, but she was far from complaining. She and Jason hit it off quite quickly as well – Natalie had come up with the idea to play Pictionary. So, of course, Karina chose his team, and together, they mopped the floor with the older Lockes.
Night-time came, and they were all exhausted from their evening spent drinking and playing games. They said their goodnights, and she took to her room. She slipped beneath the covers and became suddenly too aware of the way the fabric felt on her bare skin.
The beast within her snarled to life, her mind immediately filled with images of lips, teeth, tongues – nails biting into her skin, leaving little crescent marks as rough hands parted her thighs.
Her back arched beneath the bedding, her want silenced by biting hard on her lip. Fingers came away slick; exhaustion finally came to claim her.
Still need man.
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